Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



Students with English as second language (ESL) are typically behind monolingual peers in reading comprehension even when phonemic awareness skills, phonics and word recognition are at grade level. The lack of syntactic awareness is one of the reasons cited in multiple studies (August & Shanahan, 2010; Da Fountoura & Siegel, 1995; Lesaux & Siegel, 2003; Lesaux et al., 2006; Chong, 2009). This study investigated the effects of a six week intervention designed to increase syntactic awareness, including meta-awareness of key structures of English for young ESL students in the upper elementary grades. Twenty typically developing ESL students in the fourth and fifth grade participated in an intervention program that consisted of 35-minute training in syntactic awareness (SA) or phonemic awareness (PA) for three times per week. The ability to produce embedded and conjoined structures, including changes in both oral language and reading, were examined. Results revealed significant gains in sentence combining skills for the syntactic awareness group after six weeks of treatment. Both groups increased their performance scores for the dependent measures word ordering, word reading in context, and comprehension. Levels of second language proficiency, specifically listening proficiency, had a significant influence on gain scores for measures of oral and written syntax, as well as reading. The results suggested that the time spent on higher level language was not at the expense of word recognition skills, consistent with an interactive model of reading that suggests that an interaction between higher level language (i.e., top-down) and decoding print (i.e., bottom-up) occurs to result in word recognition (Seidenberg and McClelland, 1989). Future studies are needed to further evaluate the effect of syntactic awareness training for English as second-language learners.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Norris, Janet